NCF On The Trail: Florida Gators

UA jersey tour: Tyler Jordan

November, 21, 2014
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Four-star offensive guard Tyler Jordan was presented with his Under Armour All-America Game jersey Friday morning in a ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance. The ceremony took place in front of family, friends and teammates at the Bishop Kenny High School cafeteria.

The 10th-ranked guard and the 128th-ranked prospect overall in the ESPN 300 said he felt honored to be selected.

“I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a little kid and honestly I never thought I would be here," Jordan said.

Jordan has been committed to Florida since February but with the Gators coaching position in limbo, Jordan has received attention from a few Big Ten schools.

“I’m still committed and not wavering at all,” Jordan said. “My commitment is really solid but because of the whole coaching situation, I’ll probably take my visits. I’m not sure where yet but I’ve heard from a few that were talking to me even when I was committed. Penn State and Ohio State I talk to some but I haven’t decided where I’ll visit yet.”

The 6-foot-4, 270 pound prospect at Bishop Kenny but is being recruited by Florida and other schools to play on the interior of the line.

Seven questions with Tyler Jordan

Who was the best player you ever saw play in the Under Armour game?

Jordan: I remember watching [Jadeveon] Clowney. He’s a heck of a player — he was really good.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be?

Jordan: Probably CeCe Jefferson. I’ve played against him every year but I didn’t get a chance to this year because he was injured.

If you could start a team with any player in this class who would it be?

Jordan: Probably my entire team at Kenny. We have a strong bond and we play well together.

What’s your earliest football memory?

Jordan: Probably the first day of tryouts my freshman year. First year, first practice, first day in pads I was laying kids out and putting them on their backs.

If you could take on a professional athlete in their sport, who would it be and why?

Jordan: Mike Tyson. I’d take a punch — why not?

What would you like to improve on before you get to college?

Jordan: Body position and hand position so that I can get on to people and move them around more.

What are you looking forward to most about going to Orlando?

Jordan: Getting to play against the best-of-the best and learning from experienced coaches and former college coaches.

What’s something about yourself that not many people know about?

Jordan: I’m trying to learn how to play guitar right now, which is not going so well for me.

SEC's top recruiting visits 

November, 21, 2014
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There aren't a ton of big games on the schedule this week in the SEC but there are still a few key prospects taking visits. Here is a closer look at a few games that are expected to bring in visitors this weekend.

Ole Miss at Arkansas

UA jersey tour: Jeffery Holland

November, 20, 2014
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Four-star outside linebacker Jeffery Holland was presented with their Under Armour All-America Game jersey Thursday afternoon in a ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance. Holland was joined by his teammates Kevin Toliver II and Kendrick Norton, who were also selected for the game. The ceremony took place in front of friends, coaches, teammates and media members at the Trinity Christian School auditorium in Jacksonville, Florida.

The No. 4-ranked outside linebacker and the 40th-ranked prospect overall in the ESPN 300 said he felt honored to be selected to one of the top All-American games in the country.

"It’s a dream come true," Holland said. "I watched it when I was younger, and it’s always something I’ve wanted to be a part of. It’s real big to me."

Holland, at one point, had Florida and Auburn as his leaders, but with Florida head coach Will Muschamp stepping down at the end of the season, things have started to change for Holland.

"It’s kind of up in the air right now. Florida State, they're in it now. Auburn they are still in it. I haven’t talked to them in a while -- but they are still in it. I’m starting to talk to Florida State a lot, I know they are in my top five right now."

Despite being open in his recruitment, Holland said he does have a top five list of schools.

"I’d say Florida, FSU, Auburn, UCLA and probably Alabama are my top five right now," he said.

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Seven questions with Jeffery Holland

Who was the best player you ever saw play in the Under Armour game?

Holland: Jamie Harper is a guy I remember playing in the game because he went here and he did a flip in the end zone after he scored. I can flip, too.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class, who would it be?

Holland: Probably CeCe Jefferson. We played on the same little league team. That’s been my boy for a long time.

If you could go one-on-one with any other player in the country, who would it be?

Holland: I’d probably want to go against Martez Ivey. I’ve never gone against him, and I’d like to go against the No. 1 tackle in the country.

If you could take on a professional athlete in their sport, who would it be and why?

Holland: I want Cam Newton. I just want to sack him. He talked too much trash at that seven-on-seven event in Bradenton.

What would you like to improve on before you get to college?

Holland: I just want to improve on my technique. I need to add more moves to my tool belt. I know I got the speed rush, but I need to add the spin move and the club.

What are you looking forward to most about going to Orlando?

Holland: Just going and hanging out with some of the top players in the country. Just having fun and having a good game.

What is something about yourself that not many people know about?

Holland: I’m a top angler. I’m a fisherman.

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UA jersey tour: Kendrick Norton

November, 20, 2014
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Four-star lineman Kendrick Norton joined five-star teammate Kevin Toliver II and ESPN 300 linebacker Jeffery Holland in being presented with their Under Armour All-America Game jerseys Thursday afternoon in a ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance. The ceremony took place in front of friends, coaches, teammates and media members at the Trinity Christian School auditorium in Jacksonville, Florida.

The 99th-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300 said he felt honored to be selected to one of the top All-America games in the country.

“It just really cool that I’m maybe one of like 100 guys that gets to participate in this event. It’s an honor to play in the game."

Norton at one time was committed to FSU, but has since backed off and is considering other schools such as Miami, Florida, Ole Miss and UCLA. Though ranked as an offensive guard, Norton prefers the defensive line and several teams are recruiting him as a defensive tackle.

“I’m basically wide open,” Norton said of his recruitment. "I’m going to take a second look at Florida but basically I’m wide open. Miami wants me on the defensive line. They’ve been recruiting me real hard. Al Golden, Jethro Franklin, they talk to me every day.”

So far the ESPN 300 lineman hasn’t taken any official visits but that will soon change.

"I haven’t taken any official visits yet but I might go to Ole Miss on Jan. 29 and I’ll probably go to UCLA after the season,” he said. "Probably Miami after the season too."

Seven questions with Kendrick Norton

Who was the best player you ever saw play in the Under Armour game?

Norton: I remember watching Jamie Harper (former Trinity Christian running back) growing up. I didn’t really know who he was until I got to Trinity and I found out he actually played here but I remember watching him in the game.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be?

Norton: I’d say my entire team. I think we have a great team.

If you could go one-on-one with any other player in the country who would it be?

Norton: Whoever's the No. 1-ranked offensive guard in the country. Whoever that is, I'd want to take him on.

What's your earliest football memory?

Norton: My ninth-grade year, it was the first time I’d ever been trap-blocked. He hit me and my helmet came flying off.

If you could take on a professional athlete in their sport, who would it be and why?

Norton: Kobe Bryant. He’s the first person that came to mind other than LeBron.

What would you like to improve on before you get to college?

Norton: Just make sure I’m in shape and work on my first step and pad level.

What’s something about yourself that not many people know about?

Norton: I’m a comedian.

Aaron Rodgers said it to Packers fans and LeBron James said it to Cavaliers fans. And whomever winds up taking over as the next head coach of the Florida football program would assuredly want the same message relayed to Gators fans when it comes to the 2015 recruiting class.

R-E-L-A-X.

[+] EnlargeByron Cowart
Tom Hauck for Student SportsFive-star Byron Cowart is not letting Florida's coaching change affect his decision.
Losses on the field cost Will Muschamp his job and his successor will inherit a class with just nine verbal commits -- the fewest of any Power 5 program. With all that, panic has assuredly set in with Florida fans. But not only is it premature to worry about how this class will finish, those fans don't need to look far into history for some significant reassurance as to how strong the Gators class could be when it crosses the finish line.

While Florida doesn't share much in common with USC -- opposite coasts, different conferences, public vs. private, etc. -- there's one thing they share that is the only thing that matters in this situation. It's something that only a handful of college football programs can take advantage of. Because Florida -- like USC -- is one of college football's most visible power programs, a coaching change can lead to immediate positive effects, especially on the recruiting trail.

After the second game of the 2013 season, the Trojans might have had the least recruiting clout in the Pac-12. Dozens of high-profile USC recruits had just sat through a sloppy 10-7 loss to Washington State, complete with loud boos and chants to fire the coach.

“It was kind of a letdown,” said one ESPN 300 prospect following the game. “It's really thrown me off of them."

USC kept Lane Kiffin at the helm until Sept. 30, when the decision was made to let him go. Steve Sarkisian took over on Dec. 2 and the recruiting impact was felt almost immediately.

That decision was met with immediate excitement from prospects and galvanized the recruiting efforts in a hurry. After sitting outside the ESPN class rankings for months, the Trojans made their way back among the top 40 recruiting classes just two weeks after Sarkisian's hiring.

When the recruiting class was finished, only three prospects who originally committed to Lane Kiffin remained. The Trojans finished with 19 commitments, including the three Kiffin landed and four former Washington pledges that followed Sarkisian to USC. The Trojans finished with the No. 14 group in the country, and not only did the Trojans eventually sign Adoree' Jackson -- the lone five-star prospect in the region -- they also wound up signing the aforementioned ESPN 300 recruit that was so down on the Trojans following the Washington State loss.

[+] EnlargeSteve Sarkisian
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesSteve Sarkisian's hiring jumpstarted USC's recruiting efforts in the final two months of the 2014 cycle.
When Florida fans look at USC carrying only three commitments from early December through signing day last year, the idea of having nine committed at this point -- including four ESPN 300 prospects -- should be rather reassuring (provided they don't take a glance at Florida State's class at the moment). What should be even more reassuring are the prospects still left on the board for Florida. ESPN 300 prospects Byron Cowart, Martez Ivey, CeCe Jefferson, Adonis Thomas and Jeffery Holland are just a few of the names in the region still looking at the Gators following the loss of Muschamp. The talent available is even greater than what the Trojans collected in sweeping ESPN 300 prospects Jackson, JuJu Smith and Damien Mama on signing day last year.

Cowart probably said it best when he told ESPN.com's Derek Tyson: "I’m still considering Florida. At the end of the day, they will pay top dollar for whoever the next head coach will be, so whoever they get will be a top coach."

Getting out in front as the first major program to announce a coaching change will be a significant benefit to Florida, as often the rumblings of a coaching change can be far more detrimental to a recruiting class than the coaching change itself. In addition, the Gators are likely guaranteed that whoever takes over as head coach will bring with him several recruits -- either because they are committed to whatever program he is coaching for right now, or his name recognition alone will be too much to turn down.

While mention of the 2015 recruiting cycle makes it feel like this class goes through just one fluid stage from first offers to signing day, the truth is that there are a number of separate recruiting seasons for these seniors. We're about to step into the two that matter most -- the months between the end of the season and the beginning of February, and the final 48 hours leading up to signing day. What matters most is the recruiting momentum that can carry a program through those periods, and Florida -- like USC last year, or a handful of programs including Alabama, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas and a few others -- is one of those programs that has the ability to become a freight train on the trail with the right hire.
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The list of reasons why the Florida head coaching job is so attractive is awfully long, but the biggest reason is recruiting.

Texas might produce more Division I prospects, and you can find high concentrations of talent in California, but if you want to find difference-makers -- the kind you need to win the SEC and the national championship -- you head to the Sunshine State. The University of Florida sits in the heart of the highest quality and quantity of high school football talent in America, and to win big the Gators must hire somebody who can tap into that local pipeline. Will Muschamp’s replacement must beat Florida State and Miami regularly for these players and also keep Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn, Les Miles, Urban Meyer and others from poaching players away.

It’s a tall task indeed, but here are top 10 candidates who would make sense at Florida because they have the recruiting chops to be successful.

[+] EnlargeHugh Freeze
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsHugh Freeze has proven he can win recruiting battles against the SEC heavyweights.
1. Hugh Freeze
Head coach, Ole Miss

Freeze might be tough to pry away from Oxford because of his close ties to the state of Mississippi and the fact that he still has more time left with the vaunted 2013 top-five recruiting class he brought in to Ole Miss. But from a recruiting standpoint, it’s hard to think of somebody who would be in a better position to lure talent to Gainesville. Freeze already knows how to recruit in the cutthroat SEC and has recruited against the big dogs with a lot of success in Florida since he arrived at Ole Miss.

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ESPN Jr. 300: What to know in the SEC 

November, 19, 2014
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The SEC already has five commitments from players ranked in the top 25 of the ESPN Junior 300. That list includes Greg Little, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2016 and a Texas A&M commit. As a whole, the SEC has 27 commitments in the updated ESPN Junior 300. Here’s a closer look at the updated rankings.


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There have been some interesting names linked to the Florida opening, but several coaches believe Marshall's Doc Holliday could be a good recruiting fit in Gainesville. Plus, many expected ESPN 300 OT Chuma Edoga to flip from USC to Georgia, but it looks like the Trojans have won the battle in the end.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
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As always there was a ton of recruiting news from around the Southeastern Conference. Florida head coach Will Muschamp announced he will step down from his position at the end of the season, there were key visits and new offers over the weekend. Here's a closer look at the top recruiting news from around the conference.


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On The Trail Show (noon ET)

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
8:30
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Join RecruitingNation's panel of experts as they break down the latest recruiting news and look at the recruiting fallout of Will Muschamp leaving Florida.

ESPN 300 receiver Tyron Johnson said he’s “80 percent” sure of where he’s going but things could change dramatically if LSU steps up its pursuit. The battle to land Nick Brossette will be one of the biggest storylines heading into the final months of recruiting.

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Florida head coach Will Muschamp will step down at the end of this season, the school announced Sunday, just one day after Florida fell to 5-4 with a 23-20 overtime loss to South Carolina.

The Gators' struggles on the field over the past two seasons have started to affect their recruiting. Florida has only nine commits in the 2015 class, a number that ranks last in the SEC. Florida also recently lost commitments from two ESPN 300 linebackers, Adonis Thomas and Jerome Baker.

Several recruits weighed in on the Muschamp news shortly after it was reported.


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Best of the visits: SEC

November, 16, 2014
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From Alabama's big 25-20 win over Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon to Georgia’s dominating 34-7 win over Auburn, there were some incredible games for recruits to watch this weekend. Some prospects attended the games while others watched on television and used social media as a platform to share their experiences. Here's a look at some of the top social media posts from the weekend:

Five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson took an official visit to Alabama this weekend. The No. 9-ranked player in the nation has Alabama as one of his top schools and posed for a picture with Alabama head coach Nick Saban before the game on Saturday.
The 18th-ranked prospect in the ESPN Junior 300, Rashard Lawrence, a Monroe, Louisiana, native, also posed for a picture during his trip to Alabama. An Alabama fan posted a photo of himself with five-star quarterback commit Blake Barnett after Alabama's big win. Florida offensive line commit Brandon Sandifer tweeted this photo of himself and two other Florida commits Tyler Jordan and George Brown Jr., who all visited the Gators Saturday. Alabama commit Ronnie Harrison visited Georgia this weekend and found an unusual connection with head coach Mark Richt's wife. The two posed for a picture on Saturday. ESPN Junior 300 cornerback Chad Clay posted a picture from the Georgia sideline at the game on Saturday night. Another junior cornerback, Malek Young, also visited Georgia for the exciting game against Auburn and posed for a photo on the sideline. Arkansas commit C.J. O'Grady posted a photo of fellow Arkansas commit Will Gragg before Arkansas's first SEC win under head coach Brett Beliema. Junior cornerback Ikenna Okeke posted a photo of himself with Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson.

SEC's top recruiting visits 

November, 14, 2014
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The Mississippi State at Alabama game looks to be loaded with big-time visitors. Georgia is also expecting several ESPN 300 prospects for its game against Auburn and Florida is hoping continue its momentum against South Carolina in front of several recruits. Here’s a closer look at some of the top visitors in the SEC this weekend.


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Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Central receiver Terrell Chatman committed to Miami early on, but that hasn’t stopped other schools from coming after him. His teammate, Kevin Henry, is working hard to ensure he’ll end up at Oklahoma State.


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